Frugal Living – My Consumer Biological Clock

At heart, I am an early bird. I rise in the wee morning hours without an alarm clock, begin typing away on my computer with a cheery smile, do the dishes, and prepare myself for the day against the backdrop of a beautiful sunrise. When deadlines are given to me, I meet them a week early. I make reservations, and always arrive ten minutes in advance. I don’t know if I do this just as a part of who I am, or because of the oftentimes massive rewards given to so-called ‘early birds’—upgrades, best seats, best food, additional service. But where it often doesn’t pay to be an early bird, and so I am not, is in consumerism.

My consumer biological clock is set at a pace that is at least three-fold behind everyone else—in years, months, or weeks. When co-workers come in reading the latest magazines, I bring my own from three months ago that I have gotten free from doctor offices and friends who have since moved on. By the time the whole world had latched onto DVDs, I had graduated to owning a VCR. When my friends were watching Desperate Housewives religiously, I had just begun Sex and the City, season one.

In a sense, I am a consumer drafter, living off the tail-end wind caused by an invisible momentum from everyone else buying all of the latest, the greatest, and this season’s must-haves. However, instead of hypermiling behind an eighteen wheeler, I hypermile behind industry. Want to find the best rate on technology? Wait at least a year, and not only can you buy second versions with fewer defects, but you can get it at about half of the original price. Do your knees turn wobbly when you see the price on the latest novels and must-reads? Let everyone else rush to Barnes and Noble and pay debut price, then snatch up a hardly used copy at a thrift store a few months later.

So when the Apple iPod hit the market in 2001, I could feel the pitter-patter of my consumer biological clock rise slightly above normal, but remain steady. I let a year pass for good measure, and then began to think of ways to cheaply get my hands on one. My federal wage library position at college did not support such a high-tech gadget. Did I know anyone who all ready had an iPod that was looking to purchase a car or a computer, with companies each offering various promotions for a free iPod with purchase? No. I decided to enter a few contests. I found a radio station that was giving them away if you were their No. 10 caller after a certain series of songs. For one week I had the radio glued to my ears while studying, hanging out with friends and eating (ironically just like that cute iPod would be if I had one). At the last minute I was beat out by a housewife. After failing at several more contests, I put my hopes for a shiny new iPod aside, for a few years.

When the price finally dropped down to a mere 25% of its original $399 price, I still could not relent without a coupon, which never came. So the sale never happened.

But I did not give up. Fast-forward to 2009, eight years later. Today I wait patiently for my purchased iPod shuffle (purple) to come in the mail. Okay, so I didn’t buy it. My boyfriend got it for me, but he didn’t buy it either. After unknowingly accumulating over 14,000 reward points over the past three years from his Navy Federal Credit Union account, he decided to cash them in for this gift.

If the early bird catches the worm, then the patient bird catches the early bird’s leftovers—at a discount. And both come home full.

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